The surfer killed in a shark attack yesterday near Ballina, Australia, has been officially identified as Tadashi Nakahara. The Japanese national, who worked as a distributor for Webster Surfboards, had been living in Ballina itself for around a year, and was by all accounts a well-respected and much-loved member of the local surfing community. Tadashi was surfing at Shelly Beach when both his legs were bitten off by a shark; he died on the beach after losing copious amounts of blood. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family.
Local surfer Ryan Kenny posted the following message on his Facebook page: “A fellow surfer that I have shared many an empty surf with over the past 9 years Tadashi died this morning doing what he loved. Always polite & happy, many Ballina and Lennox surfers have shared the surf with Tadashi. Good knowing you mate, I won’t forget our empty midweek surfs R.I.P legend.” Kenny’s was not the only such tribute.
The attack that took Tadashi’s life was the third shark attack to occur in New South Wales in the last week, and the second on the north coast in just two days. On Sunday, 35-year old Jabez Reitman, a professional chef, found himself on the menu whilst surfing at Seven Mile Beach, 12-miles north of Shelly Beach. Fortunately his wounds were not life-threatening, and he was able to paddle back to shore and drive himself to hospital — an impressive effort.
“Something just jumped out of the water and just grabbed me at my hip and dragged me off my board and took me under the water,” he told ABC. “I just came back up and paddle, paddle, [and] paddled about 60 metres back into the shore and had to drive about 15 kilometres [to help] because the person I was with didn’t have a licence.” After receiving initial treatment at the local Byron Bay Hospital, he was transferred to the Gold Coast University Hospital.
Shark expert Dr. Daniel Bucher from South Cross University thought it unlikely that the same shark was responsible for both incidents. “Looking at the injuries from the fellow who was bitten on the shoulder, they look like a much smaller shark,” he said. “Certainly if it does prove that the second attack was a great white then I can certainly say they were different fish, because the first attack was definitely not a great white judging by the wounds.”
Last week several Newcastle beaches were closed on the central coast of NSW, after lifeguards at Bar Beach spotted a shark 1.8 metres in length — an impressively specific eyeball estimate — close to shore. The day before a bodysurfer at nearby Merewether Beach was left with five puncture wounds to his left ankle, inflicted by a juvenile shark. Newcastle beaches were closed for a record nine days in January due to repeated sightings of a 5m great white — nicknamed Bruce — and an attack on a pod of dolphins by a 3m tiger shark.
Dr. Bucher attributed the recent increase in sightings and attacks to the warm water, and advised against panic. “Generally there are more sightings when the water’s warm, and that’s because the sharks hunt more actively, because they have higher metabolic rates,” he told the Guardian. Referring to the general trend in shark attack rates over the last twenty years, he said: “You would presume the number of people in the water would also have increased, yet the number of people interacting with sharks hasn’t changed. That suggests the number of sharks in the water has actually gone down.”
In the aftermath of the recent attacks, Australian magazine Surfing Life spoke to world tour surfer Adam Melling, whose home break of Lennox Head is situated bang in the middle of Shelly Beach and Seven Mile Beach. “One of the glassers at the Emery factory rang us and said he was at the Lighthouse Beach car park this morning, watching them drag this bloke in without his legs,” said Melling. “It was the heaviest thing he’s ever seen. It’s so heavy – I don’t know what to think. I was tripping out, waiting for a text to say it was one of my mates. I’m not sure who it was but I didn’t know him. I think he’d been around for a while though because my mate the glasser said he’d known him for eight years or so and he has a wife and kid. It’s fucked up.” Head to the Surfing Life website to read the full interview, in which Melling suggests he may now take up roller-skating.